Friday, February 15, 2008

From atheism to what? Why do we hope?

I've posted about my previously unequivocal atheism, discussed my hope, read some Nietzche and Camus and I'm more confused than ever. What am I hoping for? Do animals hope? Is hope the same as anticipation? Like does a squirrel watch your food 'anticipating' or 'hoping' that you may drop it? When my dogs gather around my daughter when she eats, LOL, is it out of 'hope' or 'want', and what is the difference? I think I can safely say that 'want' and 'anticipation' are necessary for there to be hope, but they are certainly not sufficient.Is hope simply to sit back and yearn for something? Is hope a thought, or an action or both? I think, unlike 'want', that hope requires action, sacrifice. You have to play to win, in other words. As a PhD student, I'm obviously willing and able to withstand temporary short term discomfort (if you consider grad school short term and if 'discomfort' means a self inflicted torture) for a long term gain. So is hope just a simple account of economics? But not just economics, short term loss for long term gain? It's certainly not cause and effect, the long term gain is not certain. Not everyone who enters a PhD program will leave with their degree. We know that our actions to attain what we hope for merely increase the probability that we gain whatever it is. Is hope simply a gamble?

Do we only differentiate hope from want by the odds against us? When I buy a lottery ticket, there is a part of me that hopes I win, but I recognize it as a 'fools hope' because I know the odds. But as they say, if you don't play, you can't win. So hope requires you 'play'. It is an action, and it is a sacrifice, financial or other.

So far, I think I can say that hope requires want/desire, anticipation, action, sacrifice AND that the outcome is essentialliy probabilistic. But is that alone hope? I think we've found necessary components, but not yet sufficient components to describe hope.

Through the lens of pregnancy, all of this applies. Pregnancy is many instances of hope. But there is something more than just probablistic economics to it. First, with gambling, there are known odds, we know the likelihood of flipping heads 10 times in a row or getting a royal flush, they are easily calculable. We know that sometimes we'll win, and sometimes we'll lose, but we know in the aggregate exactly what proportion will win or lose with the same hand. Hope, in this scenario, is that one wins monetarily more than they invest. The difference between gambling and pregnancy, though is that the odds aren't as clear.

Basically, fertility, family planning, it is a gamble. As you ttc each month, you're playing to win, and the majority of couples are fertile, but that doesn't necessarily mean the month they 'try' they will get pregnant. We all know that part of it is up to chance. So many of us want to get pregnant, while some of us hope to get pregnant, depending on those odds. I've always 'wanted' to get pregnant by the way, I don't know if I ever hoped, mostly because I've never had infertility issues.
Once you have conceived, does it become a hope? Once again, I think it depends on the odds against you, are you 'high risk' etc. I think perhaps for everyone it becomes a hope because we don't know a lot about pregnancy and miscarriage. Many pregnancies end in miscarriage, the majority of those losses occur before 12 weeks. And then we make it to 23 or 24 weeks and we know that probability speaking, if we do have preterm labor, that our baby would have pretty favorable odds at survival. And as we near the end of pregnancy, as we make it to term, we've pretty much made it, but most of us know that there are no guarantees until our babies are safe in our arms. But still, as our odds of giving birth to a live healthy child increase to over 99% as we reach term, it's still essentially a hope. Why? Is it the unknown? Because when it's a card game and you're 99% likely to win, I don't think you 'hope' to win anymore. You expect it.

So perhaps, then, why I feel so betrayed and hopeless is because I was no longer hoping. I felt entitled, it was almost a certainty. And I did forget, especially that 37th week, that this was still a gamble that hadn't yet paid off. And now, perhaps I feel hopeless because I realize that essentially everything is a gamble. And to hope is to believe that you will win, even if the odds are against you.

So, back to the conundrum, can true atheists justify their hope at all?

"Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man." -- Nietzsche
to be continued . . .


c. said...

Hmmm. I wonder if we can tie hope to our religious/spriritual views at all. I'm definitely more the agnostic type and I have hoped, but I think it's all so pointless now. I don't hope for another baby, because I don't think hope guarantees me anything. I want another baby. Desperately. I want the baby I lost. Desperately. But, to hope for either one of those, just seems so silly now when I know that hope is only a fool's wish.

Interestingly, I have never been a risk taker. I don't tempt fate. I don't play the lottery. I don't do anything that doesn't guarantee me a positive outcome. I thought pregnancy and childbirth was one of those things. I was so freakin' wrong. Yet, I am willing to try my chances at a healthy, live baby again...even knowing I won't be guaranteed what I want in the end. It's terrifying.

anarchist mom said...

Exactly my conundrum. I am a person that has thrived on hope. I've never been so utterly hopeless, and now I wonder, given my atheism, why I ever hoped in the first place?

I hope and want for another baby, but the 'hope' part is so scary and I don't believe it will happen. I have a sinking feeling it won't. Maybe we'll both get what we want someday, eh? :)

c. said...

I hope so. (Fucking hope.)